Friendship In Action
How New Moms Are Staying Connected During COVID-19
I am a teacher on maternity leave with my first child, a baby girl who arrived earthside July 2020.
Oh, yes… 2020- it’s a year we all won’t have any trouble remembering!!
On January 1st, we all rang in a new decade, feeling excited and hopeful for what lay ahead! Sometimes I look back at photos from January and February of last year and have this bewildered feeling looking at how oblivious we all were to what lay ahead. There I was, in a classroom full of students, talking, singing, yelling, eating, riding the subway, going on field trips, aimlessly wandering around the grocery store, traveling, and spending time with friends- indoors. Then, our world took a turn and led us to places we never, ever could have expected. These places that we were led to introduced us to parts of ourselves we never, ever could have imagined.
Friendship In Action has been in my heart for a long time now. Gerry Mabin was a special person to me as a child as I attended the Mabin school. I have memories of quietly listening to her stories, captivated by her calm, and of spilling milk and learning a whole new way to react to life’s mishaps and ups and downs. Then, I became a teacher and in between supply teaching gigs was brought back under Gerry’s wing, this time at FIA. In this role, I went into classrooms across the city as a member of her team working to engage students in dramatic play activities that fostered and developed compassion and empathy in the minds of the next generation. Later, I settled into teaching a group of beautiful, vibrant teenagers at a dynamic downtown school, and again, in walked Gerry Mabin, this time with the Kids Helping Kids Manage Stress Program. It has always inspired me how fiercely committed Gerry and everything she creates works to support youth. When youth are supported, our homes, streets, cities, and country are a better place. As a student and educator, I felt that first hand.
Now, the kids are home. They have bent, adapted, evolved, and grown in ways that will always be remembered as honourable. These kids are the real deal.
But at home, there are moms and dads, grandparents and guardians who are struggling. They are struggling to model what it looks like to be adaptive, to have a growth mindset, and to keep on going. There is so much to carry as a parent in these times and again, we shine a light on our youth and see so clearly how the well being of their parents dictates the well being of them.
Bi-weekly a group of FIA team members and moms across the province gather virtually. First, we share the colours of a stoplight to indicate how well we feel we are coping with the mental and emotional load of parenting in isolation- something that has never been done on such a global scale before. Then, we listen… really listen. Sometimes there are long moments of silence as we all let someone’s grief, sadness, joy, longing, or hope sink into our hearts. It’s all welcome. And then… we do what FIA has always given space for- we connect.
A connection is something that 2020 has taught us to drink in and savour whenever it comes around. A chat on the phone with a friend, a wave through the door to the mailman, a masked smile at a fellow mom walking by on the street, or, on some Tuesday mornings it is by logging on to Zoom and getting the chance to really unpack how we are. Every week, I come to the group hopeful and I leave the group held.
We, mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, sisters, bothers, kids… we are a part of a village. And not even a global pandemic can take that away. FIA has found us, all in our own homes dealing with our own mundane, anxiety-provoking realities, led us to each other, giving us the chance to connect, and just like that, we are a village again.
For that, and more, I am forever grateful.
- Jen Penman